With the 2026 FIFA World Cup around 30 months away and no qualification process, this tournament is exactly what this team needs, and it should be welcomed. This U.S. team is no longer young and green. They’ve been through a World Cup process, they’ve been bloodied, and therefore expectations should be higher.
But it’s not just the players. The person who is going to be under the most pressure next summer is coach Gregg Berhalter. This could be a huge and defining summer for Berhalter — so much so that if it does not go well, I think there is a change made.
Keep in mind, this is a Gregg Berhalter who was given a second chance to coach this team that a lot of people felt he didn’t deserve. This is a Gregg Berhalter who is still on the proving ground.
United States Soccer Federation sporting director Matt Crocker, the man who hired him, believes Berhalter is the best coach for the job of leading this team into a monumental 2026 World Cup. But if there ever comes a point when Crocker feels the program is not heading in the right direction, not only do I think he will make a change, but it is his responsibility to do so. A poor Copa América performance next summer might represent the most prudent time.
And you know what? It would absolutely be legitimate and fair — that’s how important the 2026 World Cup is to this team and to this sport. You cannot afford to screw around when it comes to 2026.
So, if things are not going in the direction that you want it to, you need to make a change, and I think Gregg Berhalter understands that. But if Copa América goes well, it could really help bolster Crocker decision that Berhalter is the right person to lead this team.
The summer of 2026 is coming fast, and the summer of 2024 is coming faster. Berhalter better have this team ready — his future might depend on it.
Alexi Lalas is a soccer analyst for FOX Sports and host of “Alexi Lalas’ State of the Union Podcast.” He represented the USMNT at the 1994 FIFA World Cup and had a nine-year professional career. In 2006, he became the president of the LA Galaxy and helped bring David Beckham to Major League Soccer.
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